Naomi Osaka reveals ‘cool’ clay tactic she’s learning from Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek

Naomi Osaka discusses training while in coronavirus lockdown

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Naomi Osaka has admitted she is trying to mirror Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek’s tendency to run around the backhand to hit a forehand to improve her clay-court game. The 2022 clay season has begun, and Osaka hopes to restart her climb to the summit of the WTA world rankings, starting with a good showing at the Madrid Open.

In round one, Osaka cruised past Russian world number 78 Anastasia Potapova in straight sets, picking up a 6-3 6-1 win. On Sunday, she faces a tough follow-up test against Spanish world number 35 Sara Sorribes Tormo, who knocked out 13th-seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova last time out.

Osaka has from the WTA Tour’s leading player in 2019 to 36th in the rankings, but she is preparing for next month’s French Open. The Japanese star has never surpassed round three at Roland Garros, and she seems to be picking up a style boasted by some of the sport’s clay greats to improve on that.

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After admitting she had some new tricks up her sleeve for the 2022 clay season, Osaka explained she was trying to master the art of running around the backhand. She said: “Yeah. I think – I don’t know if I just say it. No player really reads – okay, whatever. I’m just going to tell you. Okay. You know what I did at the match point? Stuff like that.

“I believe watching Nadal, Iga [Swiatek] does it too, which I think is really cool, but just knowing when to hit a forehand instead of a backhand and knowing when to run around. I think a lot of really good clay-court players do that, so I’m trying to learn how to do that, as well.”

After defeating Potapova in the Spanish capital, Osaka explained that she was enjoying tennis again and revealed she arrived a week early to ensure she was in the best possible condition for a good tournament.

“I’m honestly trying to be more positive with myself,” Osaka said after her match. “This year, I came a week early to train on red clay, so just trying to give myself more chances to do better. To be able to do it in two sets, for me, it’s a really good starting block. “I think today, for me, it was really fun, just being able to be back on the clay and kind of not taking those moments for granted.”

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